Document story idea: problems in university athletics

Find out problems in major university athletic programs near you by going after NCAA sanction records.

The NCAA this week turned over documents regarding sanctions against Florida State University following a lawsuit brought by dozens of newspapers and TV stations (see Tallahassee Democrat story). The university faces punishment because of cheating by its athletes.

The NCAA, which is a nonprofit, said its internal documents were not subject to the public records law because it is not a government agency, but the courts said the records pertain to official government business regarding a state-funded institution, so they are public under Florida’s law.

So what does that mean to you if you don’t live in Florida? After all, that precedent applies only to Florida – such records might not be deemed public in your state. Well, the first step is to seek records directly from your public university (Florida State already had released the records). You can mention the Florida case, including the massive amount of negative publicity (nationally) against Florida State, and that might break it loose. Also, if the records are general in nature, covering the whole nation, you might be able to team up with a Florida journalist to request them from the NCAA through Florida and then localize it to your area.

The bottom line: If there are major problems going on at your local university, the public should know about that. Common sense often prevails, as it did in Florida.

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